Kelly Koala

Marina Kittaka
4 min readSep 18, 2017


Kelly Koala is a handmade book, printed during a book arts class in 2011 using polymer plates. The initial idea of this book centered around creating a humorous and kinetic rhythm by having each illustration depict the text from the previous page spread. I also had just come back from an art/printmaking study abroad trip to the South Pacific and had koalas on my mind.

The process began with plastic transparency sheets covered with black ink. I drew the illustrations by scratching away the ink, allowing light to pass through. These sheets were placed on top of photo-sensitive polymer plates, which were then selectively exposed to and hardened by UV light. The unhardened parts were scrubbed away leaving the raised designs that were relief-printed similarly to letterpress.

Image of a polymer plate ready for printing after it has been exposed and scrubbed (unaltered photo by Tipografia Leonev via Wikimedia Commons shared under the CC BY 3.0 license)

4 sets of the book’s pages were printed and hand-colored with watercolors. 3 of those sets were bound, and the fourth set was scanned to create the following digital recreation.

A small image of Kelly sits in an embossed square to decorate the cover of the books.

Special thanks to my professor, Fred Hagstrom, for his help throughout the process. I really like picture books and would like to make more at some point. Fun detail: as the story progresses, the koalas shift from intense, saturated hues to more naturalistic grays. However, we do get a hopeful peek of color in the world at the end.